Beach Plum (Maritima)

The Beach Plum (Maritima) is generally described as a perennial shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Beach Plum (Maritima) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous blue fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Beach Plum (Maritima) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Beach Plum (Maritima) will reach up to 12 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 12 feet.

The Beach Plum (Maritima) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Beach plum is most useful in the secondary stabilization and restoration of coastal sand dunes. On Cape Cod, MA, efforts are being made to develop and promote the commercial fruit production of this native plum. This native shrub is utilized by coastal wildlife.

General Characteristics

On sand dunes beach plum will reach heights of 4 to 7 feet; but if this species is moved inland, and it can attain heights of 16 to 18 feet. When maximum heights have been reached, stem diameter will range from 4 to 8 inches at the root collar. The root system penetrates deep into the soil, and as lower branches are covered by shifting sands, adventitious roots develop. Colonies formed from this layering effect can expand up to 20 feet.

The egg shaped leaves of beach plum are firm, alternate, and dull green; they are rough and ridged above, paler and finely hairy beneath. The leaves are half as wide as they are long, measuring 1½ to 2½ inches long; each leaf is attached to the branches with a stout, hairy, often granular stalk. The leaf edges are finely serrated, with broadly triangular to semi-circular shaped, abruptly pointed teeth.

In April to early May, flowers emerge before the leaves. Each snowy white flower measures ¼ to ½ inch across, with very hairy stalks and sepals. Flowers develop in axillary clusters of two or three. After pollination occurs by bees or wind the flowers become pinkish in color. The edible fruit that develops is round and ½ to ¾ inches in diameter. The color may vary from a purplish-black to red; there are some plants that produce yellow fruit. The fleshy fruit’s surface is covered with a tough skin which has a heavy, white waxy residue. Each fruit contains a single stone type seed which is egg shaped, swollen, and squared-off at the base.

Required Growing Conditions

Although indigenous to the mid-Atlantic coastal region, beach plum has been planted successfully on more inland sites. It is well adapted to droughty sites with moderately fertile, slightly acidic, loamy and sandy soils. Beach plum does not perform well on heavy clay soils, but will tolerate moderately well drained conditions.

Beach plum is distributed throughout the Northeast. For a current distribution map, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Cultivation and Care

Quality seedlings are easily produced in nurseries on raised beds. Fall sowing works best to utilize natural stratification forces to break seed dormancy. If spring sowing is selected, the seed must be exposed to a cool moist stratification for at least 30 days, prior to planting. Due to the expansive root system which rapidly develops, seedlings are distributed as 1 year old bare-root or containerized stock. Controlling competing weeds through the establishment period is critical to good survival and performance of the seedlings. Mulching, hand cultivating, and no fertilization for the first year or two are the most effective means of avoiding weedy growth. Application of fertilizer can initiate excessive growth of competing grasses. Once this shrub is established it requires little or no maintenance.

General Upkeep and Control

Chemical control of mildew and aphids is sometimes necessary with beach plum, if an infestation becomes excessive.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) There is one variety available on the commercial nursery market for conservation uses named ‘Ocean View’ (composite from plants in DE, NJ, MA). This cultivar was developed and released in 1992 by the Cape May Plant Materials Center, in Cape May Court House, NJ. Foundation seed and orchard stock can be acquired from the PMC by commercial producers. Common stock material of locally collected sources can be purchased from nurseries.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 12
Vegetative Spread Slow
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.8–7.7 pH
Precipitation Range 36–36 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–2200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA